“May the flowers remind us why the rain was necessary”
“One day at a time”
“Be gentle with yourself, you’re doing the best you can”
We hear ‘positive‘ quotes all day long in the chronic illness community.
From helping us get through a tough day, to reminding someone else they are stronger than their mind is telling them; positivity has a great lot of traction with those who are going through ongoing health challenges.
But, how much of this can be useful as a long term strategy for those with chronic illness or illnesses?
While feeling upset and frightened can be a sign of strength and may reflect your courage in facing up to an uncertain future, eventually this can run it’s natural course. So it can help to try to change negative thoughts into something more positive when they come into your head. This takes practice.
Can being and maintaining a positive outlook be good for your health?
There is no doubt that what happens in the brain influences what happens in the body. When facing a health crisis, actively cultivating positive emotions can boost the immune system and counter depression. Studies have shown an indisputable link between having a positive outlook and health benefits like lower blood pressure, less heart disease, better weight control and healthier blood sugar levels.
An important goal of positivity is to feel happy, calm and satisfied. This can be even more beneficial in the midst of a health crisis.
Ways to cultivate and keep a positive attitude
- SCHEDULE A ‘WORRY BREAK‘ – While it is not good to spend all day caught up in your worries and anxieties, it is not possible to block out all of such thoughts. As such, give yourself a ‘worry break’ every day where you can indulge yourself in your worries for about 20 to 30 minutes. This becomes your allocated space to explore your biggest insecurities while containing it to a specific time-frame.
- STAY IN THE PRESENT – Staying in the present moment – the ‘here-and-now’ – is a skill you can practise with breathing and meditation. By being aware and mindful of your thoughts, feelings and experiences in the present moment, you will find yourself growing in resilience and becoming less reactive and agitated.
- EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS – This doesn’t mean that you always have to stop yourself feeling down. It is important to allow yourself to experience your feelings. It is fine to cry if you need to. If you feel very angry, find a safe way to express this.
- GO SLOWLY – But if I slow down just for a few minutes – even if I have to force it by walking, talking and eating slower – then the mind and body calms down too. It becomes easier to think things through clearly again and easier to find an optimistic and constructive perspective.
- BREATHE AND REFOCUS – 1. Breathe with your belly and focus on just your in-breaths and out-breaths for a minute or two to calm your mind and body. 2. Getting a more grounded perspective on the situation by just venting or getting someone else’s input. 3. Or simply ask yourself this to widen your perspective and to chill out: Will this matter in 5 years? Or even in 5 weeks?
- START YOUR MORNINGS RIGHT – How you start your day usually sets the tone for the rest of your day. So be careful about how you spend your mornings.
- MINDFULNESS – Another simple way to reconnect with the moment you are in, and to put your full attention there again, is to focus just on what is going on around you right now. For a minute or two, spend time with your senses. See it. Hear it. Smell it. Feel the sun, rain or cold wind on your skin. It might sound like a small and insignificant thing to do. But this simplifying reconnection with the moment can have a very positive effect on the rest of your day.
Do you have any questions or queries? Or just want to share your own experiences?
- Being Positive when things are bad
- Remaining Positive in the Face of [Chronic] Illness
- Growing Through your Diagnosis
- Jane E Brody, The New York Times, March 27 2017 – A Positive Outlook May Be Good for Your Health